Edwin Escobar pitched well in San Jose to earn a promotion.
The San Francisco Giants run of pitching dominance at the big league level has come to a halt so far this season. However, San Francisco's farm system is stacked with intriguing pitching prospects.
A rival executive recently told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that the pitching in the lower minors is the club's best trade bait along with catcher Andrew Susac.
Kyle Crick is far and away the top prospect in the system, but Edwin Escobar was the first of the pitching prospects to move up the ladder. He was promoted from High-A San Jose to Double-A Richmond two weeks ago. If Crick hadn't strained his oblique earlier this year, he might have been promoted along with Escobar.
Let's take a look at how Crick, Escobar and the rest of the top prospects did during the season's 16th week.
Kyle Crick was recently ranked as one of the game's top prospects.
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 8 GS, 1-1 W-L, 1.04 ERA, 24 BB, 50 K, 34.2 IP
Former top prospect Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter for the Giants last weekend, and current top prospect Kyle Crick threw five no-hit innings at San Jose during the week.
Unfortunately, Crick was removed early after walking five hitters. In 25 innings since returning from the disabled list, Crick has allowed only 11 hits and three runs while striking out 38. However, he's also walked 15.
Crick has walked 24 in 34.2 innings this season for a walk rate of 6.2 per nine innings pitched (BB/9). He put up a walk rate of 5.4 BB/9 last year.
Despite his control issues, Crick remains one of the top prospects in baseball. Marc Hulet of FanGraphs recently ranked Crick as the game's 20th-best prospect. Crick has the stuff to be an ace down the line for the Giants, but he needs to refine his control to reach that ceiling.
Last Week: 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 6 K
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 17 GS, 5-4, 4.26 ERA, 26 BB, 107 K, 95 IP
Clayton Blackburn delivered his fourth straight solid start last week. He allowed two runs over six innings. He struck out eight to raise his total to 107 on the year, which is second in the California League.
In a recent chat, ESPN prospect analyst Keith Law said that Blackburn would still rank towards the bottom of his top 100-prospect list as he did before the start of the season. Law wrote of Blackburn, "Not much upside potential - he is what he is, but that's a solid #4."
Blackburn isn't likely to develop into a future star, but he's arguably the most polished arm in the system. He's probably the best bet among Giants pitching prospects to reach his ceiling, which is that of a mid-rotation starter.
Last Week: 1 GS, 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
2013 Stats at Low-A Augusta: 14 GS, 7-3, 3.66 ERA, 32 BB, 91 K, 84 IP
Chris Stratton battled through seven shutout innings last week. He allowed nine baserunners—five hits and four walks—but he stranded them all.
David Lee of The Augusta Chronicle had this report on Stratton's last start:
Stratton pitched to contact well, inducing 11 ground balls to three fly balls and two line drives. He didn't have swing-and-miss stuff, but he didn't let it ruin his night, avoiding hard contact for the most part. Stratton had a good fastball that popped in the low-90s throughout. He didn't have a good slider working, which was a major reason for the lack of whiffs...Stratton's polish helped in this outing by not rushing to force a slider that wasn't working.
Stratton has had a solid year at Augusta to this point. His 3.66 ERA ranks 16th in the South Atlantic League, and his 91 strikeouts rank eighth.
Stratton—the Giants' first-round pick last year—is well on his way to establishing himself as a future staple in the San Francisco rotation.
Last Week: 1 GS, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Andrew Susac is the top bat in the system.
2013 Stats at Double-A Richmond: .259/.370/.474, .844 OPS, 17 2B, 11 HR
Andrew Susac returned from the disabled list last week, and he went 2-for-13 with two walks and a double.
Susac was having a solid season before a finger issue caused him to go on the shelf for two weeks. Prior to the injury, Susac had emerged as the top hitter in the system.
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Susac would be a sought after commodity if the Giants decide to buy at the trading deadline.
Catchers who can hit as well as Susac are hard to find, but the Giants already have one of the best offensive catchers in the game in Buster Posey. Thus, catcher is an organizational strength for the Giants.
Last Week: 2-for-13, 2 BB, 2B
Edwin Escobar had an excellent second start at Double-A.
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 16 GP, 3-4, 2.89 ERA, 17 BB, 92 K, 74.2 IP
2013 Stats with Double-A Richmond: 2 GS, 1-1, 4.22 ERA, 1 BB, 13 K, 10.2 IP
Edwin Escobar allowed six hits and four runs over four innings during his first start two weeks ago at Double-A Richmond. He bounced back to throw 6.2 strong innings last week. He struck out eight, didn't walk a batter and allowed just one run in his second start since the promotion.
The 21-year-old lefty dominated the lower minor leagues. He put up a 2.86 ERA and a 3.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Low-A Augusta last year. He followed up that outstanding performance with a 2.89 ERA and a 5.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio at San Jose to open this season.
Escobar is a power lefty with a fastball that tops out at 96 mph. If he continues to pitch well at Double-A, he could put himself in the discussion for a rotation spot with the Giants as soon as 2014.
Last Week: 1 GP, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
2013 Stats at Low-A Augusta: 15 GS, 8-3, 2.03 ERA, 34 BB, 97 K, 79.2 IP
Injuries are the only thing that have troubled Martin Agosta this season. He went on the disabled list with a dead arm in June. He returned for one start before going back on the DL with a blister, according to David Lee of The Augusta Chronicle.
Agosta returned from his latest setback with another good outing on Sunday. He struck out five and allowed only one hit and one unearned run over 5.1 innings of work.
Agosta—the Giants’ 2012 second-round pick out of St. Mary's College—is turning out to be a real nice find from last year's draft. His health will be something to monitor during the remainder of this season.
Last Week: 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
2013 Stats at Double-A Richmond: .251/.330/.352 .682 OPS, 23 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR
Joe Panik began to bust out of a prolonged slump with seven hits—including four doubles—last week.
Panik does a lot of things well. He's a good defender who can play shortstop and second base. He doesn't strike out much, and he takes walks.
Panik's future role with the Giants will be determined by his bat. If he can become a .300 hitter, he'll be an everyday player. If he doesn't get to that level with the stick, he'll be a utility man.
Last Week: 7-for-20, 4 2B, 2 BB
2013 Stats at Triple-A Fresno: 37 GP, 1-2, 4.43 ERA, 14 BB, 50 K, 40.2 IP, 21 Saves
Heath Hembree had his streak of scoreless innings snapped when he allowed a run last week.
Still, Hembree has put up a 0.90 ERA over his last 10 appearances. He's struck out 15 over his last 10 innings of work.
With Jeremy Affeldt going on the disabled list with a groin injury, the Giants turned to Jean Machi again instead of Hembree. Hembree hasn't gotten the call to help the Giants yet; however, if he keeps pitching well, he could be an option as soon as this season.
Last Week: 2 GP, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
2013 Stats at Triple-A Fresno: .244/.304/.421, .726 OPS, 25 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR
Gary Brown swung the bat better last week. He went 5-for-16 with two extra-base hits and two runs scored.
Brown got off to a terrible start, and his seasonal numbers still haven't fully recovered. He's been hitting better recently, but he hasn't shown the consistency of a future regular in the big leagues this season.
He doesn't walk or get on base enough to hit at the top of the lineup in the major leagues. Brown will have to improve in those areas to get a shot with the Giants in 2014.
Last Week: 5-for-16, 2B, HR, 2 BB
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: .280/.364/.480, .844 OPS, 20 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR
Mac Williamson might have the most power in the minor leagues for the Giants. He's blasted 17 home runs and 39 extra-base hits for San Jose this season.
Among position players, Susac and Williamson have taken steps forward in 2013 while Brown and Panik have struggled.
Williamson will have to cut down on the strikeouts as he moves up the ladder. He's whiffed 94 times in 375 at-bats thus far.
Assuming Williamson is promoted next season, his performance at Double-A will go a long way towards determining his future role. Susac has improved at that level, but a lot of hitters run into a wall against the stiff competition in the Eastern League.
Last Week: 9-for-23, 2B, 2 BB
Here are some other notable prospects to keep an eye on:
Joan Gregorio threw seven no-hit innings last week. He struck out 10 while inducing 19 swinging strikes with a fastball that touched the mid-90s, according to David Lee of The Augusta Chronicle. He improved to 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA. He's struck out 73 in 60.2 innings of work.
Ty Blach is 10-3 with a 2.59 ERA for San Jose. He has 95 strikeouts against only 11 walks in 100.2 innings. He allowed one run over five innings in his start last week.
Kendry Flores struck out 10 in his start last week to raise his total to 99 over 100 innings of work.
The Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Christian Arroyo, is hitting .254/.338/.413 through his first 16 professional games.
Second-round pick Ryder Jones is batting .422 through his first 12 games. Arroyo and Jones hit back-to-back home runs in a game last week.
Eric Surkamp was roughed up for 10 hits and six runs over 4.2 innings. Even though his ERA at Triple-A Fresno rose to 4.79, he's likely going to make a spot start for the Giants next week (h/t Carl Steward, San Jose Mercury News).
Michael Kickham also had a tough start last week. He allowed seven hits, five walks and five runs over four innings.
After a hot start at Double-A, Adam Duvall's slash line has fallen down to .243/.311/.436.